The road into management in a Language Teaching Organisation (LTO) could be vastly different depending on where you are teaching, the type of organisation and a range of other factors. While there might not be an exact road map, and occasionally people end up in management despite not wanting to be there, this post will hopefully provide future (and maybe current) managers with some confidence. The key assumption here is that it is probably easier to move from teaching into teaching management, than from sales into sales management, mostly because there are so many skills that are transferable.
Transferable teacher skills
The most logical step up from teaching is into academic management. For some that is a Coordinator role, for others a Senior Teacher role or Assistant Director of Studies (ADoS). These roles are so different between different organisations that it is pointless to make assumptions about what is required in different organisations. There are, however, a number of skills that teachers either possess in abundance, or they could work on to highlight their future worth as managers. These include:
- Awareness of the product. You have probably been teaching the courses you will manage and that gives you insight into strengths and weaknesses, course outcomes, and how to support other teachers teaching the course.
- Motivational and interpersonal skills. Teachers display motivational skills by how they motivate their students. They also deal daily with people with different needs and characteristics and generally have a good awareness of the needs and characteristics of the people (students) they are dealing with. These ‘people skills’ are an important element of being an effective manager.
- Organisational and planning skills. Teachers plan lessons, series of lessons, assessment, and more. The ability to plan effectively is something that can transfer from teaching into management, on the condition that the manager knows what they are planning. But often, with academic management, the difference is a lot smaller than what it might be in other industries.
- Curriculum development and assessment. As an academic manager, the planning and execution of curriculum decision and assessment is often very closely tied to the knowledge you have, or could develop, as a teacher. Understanding the curriculum and assessment in depth would also make it easier to communicate to other teams, such as the sales and marketing teams.
- Teacher development. One of the most important roles as an academic manager is to develop and guide the teachers in your team. As someone that has developed their own career, you could be well placed to develop the careers of other teachers and improve their classroom practice.
Understanding how these skills could transfer to management means the teacher can gradually improve skills that would be valuable as a manager while still teaching. It also allows them to think beyond the classroom, while developing those skills inside of the classroom.
Still working of the assumptions that teachers move into academic management roles, I would strongly suggest the Cambridge DELTA or Trinity Diploma TESOL as a starting point. It provides a very strong base for classroom observations, turning theory into practice, and is well-respected across the industry.
As a big part of teacher development involves observations and feedback, a Train the Trainer type course would also be very useful. I have done both this one from Cambridge Assessment and this one from NILE ELT and they were both very useful. (Other providers also run similar courses so do your research to find one that works best for you.) The Train the Trainer courses allow the manager to reflect on how to do observations and provide feedback in a way that is useful and effective. There is also some focus on how to plan and deliver a training session, but this is again an area where there is lots of transfer from being an effective teacher in the first place.
There are a range of ELT specific management qualifications. For shorter course, the NILE Language Teaching Management course, or the International House courses on Academic Management, to name a few, are very useful.
For a more in-depth look at the range of business functions and skills required across an LTO, the DELTM the IDLTM are both fantastic courses and I would definitely put one of the two on my wish list if I could go back 15 years and restart my management journey.
And finally, there is always the option of an MA in ELT Management, an MBA or maybe even and Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management. These types of courses are important as they fill a void of skills that are often absent in teacher training and development. These include financial statements and budgeting, human resources, operations, sales, and marketing. Should you want to progress beyond just academic management, it is almost imperative to understand in detail how the different departments interact with each other and how this looks on a business plan, budget, and in practice.
Developing management skills as a teacher
While there isn’t an exact map, the advice above should help any budding manager develop skills they can show in an interview and help them through the first few months on the job. Actively working on developing the skills that can transfer to management should be a priority for anyone aiming to become a manager. Other than courses, there are numerous other resources that can be used. Besides this blog, you can also read a number of articles in Modern English Teacher and/or English Teaching Professional here and here.
Learning from other managers, especially those working in different contexts, would also help develop a more holistic approach to management. This would include managers of non-academic departments and could include managers of different departments in the organisation where you are currently employed. The IATEFL LAMSIG (Leadership and Management Special Interest Group) has a range of articles like this one specifically looking at moving from teacher to manager and members can access a range of other management related articles.
A development opportunity that is often overlooked is on the job learning. This could be before or after you have moved into management. Asking a manager to mentor you or shadowing a manager can offer valuable insight into what they do daily. It also allows you to get feedback and guidance that will help develop the skills needed to be successful when you transition to management. Learning while doing has the potential to be the most effective way of learning to manage, so if opportunities arise for a little bit of extra responsibility, volunteer to do so.
Deciding the destination before looking at the map
If management is where you see your future, then there are numerous ways of getting yourself ready and equipped before venturing into management. It is important that you decide what skills you want to be working on and how you will develop those. A final tip would be to look at the role profile or job adverts for management roles in your region and make sure what skills these jobs require, how you can develop them, and how you can show them in an interview or on a CV. This means that you have a clear indication of where you are going, before trying to map out your development route and decide which of the ideas in this blog post, or any other ideas, might be the best to get you to your management destination.